As the Southern Baptist Convention prepares to discuss a possible name change, there are many factors to be considered. There will be some excellent reasons given showing why a name change makes good sense. There will be equally excellent reasons presented showing why a name change is not a smart move. This calls for the wisdom of Solomon.
When two women came before this famous king after one of their babies had died, they both claimed to be mother of the living baby. King Solomon said he would cut the living baby in two and give half to each woman. The real mother pleaded with the king to give her baby to the other woman, while the pretender told the king to cut the baby in two. The king then knew which one was the real mother and which one was the imposter. He gave the baby to the real mother.
This story offers insights about how disciples in the SBC can wisely approach the delicate issue of a name change. Whenever we get overly emotional and contentious about a controversial decision within our church, we are in danger of acting like the imposter in this story from 1 Kings 3. We then push for our own agenda no matter who gets “cut out” by our selfish behavior. All we care about in those instances is getting our own way. That is just the opposite of the New Testament church as seen in the book of Acts. That church was empowered by the Holy Spirit and Christ’s love and not hindered by the personal agendas of man.
Many people have left churches after being treated with disrespect and hostility. Many churches have been greatly weakened in their witness and effectiveness by infighting over issues that need not divide the body of Christ.
There is no reason that this issue has to divide individual SBC churches or the denomination as a whole. Different opinions can be welcomed and discussed while everyone works hard to promote a spirit of unity, mission, and friendship in Christ.
As the pros and cons are seriously weighed over and prayed over, here are 7 things that a name change in the SBC won’t do regardless of whatever decision is made:
1. It won’t fill any heart with the power of the Holy Spirit.
(Without that power flowing in hearts hour by hour, the name of the church will do absolutely nothing to increase the spiritual vitality that is essential in God’s church.)
2. It won’t guarantee that more souls will be saved and that there will be more baptisms.
(Only the Holy Spirit can accomplish the new birth, and if believers are lacking on point #1, they will definitely be lacking on point #2 as well.)
3. It won’t promote unity in the church unless this touchy topic is approached in the Spirit rather than in the flesh.
4. It won’t make people more Christ-like or obedient to God.
5. It won’t stop believers from continuing the rich history in the SBC of leading many people to Christ and making disciples for Jesus if each one will “keep the main thing the main thing.”
6. It won’t stop God from accomplishing His will and purpose as each Christian yields to Christ every hour of every day.
7. It won’t become an unhealthy and highly emotional distraction as long as believers increase their time spent in prayer and in God’s Word during this process.
(10 minutes in prayer for every minute in discussion of this topic would display tremendous wisdom and discretion. “Lord Jesus, help me to truly spend 10 times as much time talking to you about this matter as I spend talking to others about the possible name change.”)
God has not raised up this “baby” into a 166-year-old giant in the faith just to have some of His children “cut out” certain ones within their midst with whom they disagree on a secondary issue such as this one. There is no reason that every single SBC disciple cannot display the kind of love during this process that the real mother displayed in 1 Kings 3.
This demonstration of love will itself be evidence of how mightily God has blessed the SBC with mature disciples who are rooted deeply in the cross and in the love of Jesus. (This is the opposite of the spiritual immaturity that we find in the lives of the believers in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 as they exhibited jealousy and quarreling with one another.)
As the process begins, just remember that this challenging task should certainly not be undertaken like the game of “Survivor” on television. This is the body of Christ. This is God’s church and these are His people. Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Will that love be evident to the world in this process?
Who will demonstrate the most love for the future of this spiritual giant? King Jesus is watching how each one of His children within the SBC respond to this test. The King will then make His decision and reward those who truly loved “His body of believers” the most. No one needs to be cut out in the process.